Keeping an eye on nutrition

While it can seem at times that all we hear about is illness and sickness, it can be tempting to turn to Dr Google for advice on what to do. Fears around coronavirus are rising – and there seems to be little we’re advised to do in-between washing our hands regularly, and self-isolating. But another way we can help put ourselves in the best position to getting sick is to focus on scientifically proven ways to boost our immune system to heighten our body’s defence against viruses.

Our immune system is made up of a complex network of cells, tissues and organs in our body that helps to protect us from disease and infection and its ability to work effectively is dependent on many things. What we eat can play a big role in either enhancing or hindering this response. And while there is no specific food that is guaranteed to protect you from coronavirus, following the general healthy eating guidelines to help maintain a well functioning immune system is the best advice for now. 

Also, if you’re preparing to stay home more than usual, it’s important to have healthy foods on hand. That means selecting foods that pack a nutritional punch in order to ensure you’re getting the fibre, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other health- and immune-supporting compounds you need. 

TIP #1 Eat whole foods 

You should aim to eat whole/minimally processed foods 80-90% of the time. Whole foods tend to be nutrient-dense and have a lower energy density. This means that they have fewer calories and more nutrients per serving than processed foods. 

TIP #2 Include all food groups

Having a diet that includes things from all food groups is a great way to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to function properly. Groups to include foods from are:
-    Fruits, vegetables and legumes
-    Wholegrains
-    Lean meat, fish and eggs
-    Nuts and seeds
-    Dairy products

TIP #3 Eat the rainbow

When it comes to your plant based foods, try to include as much variety and different colours as possible as this ensures you are getting a balanced intake of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that your body needs for good health.

TIP #4 Limit “sometimes” foods

We all know the types of foods that are not so good for us. And while we don’t want to cut them out completely, we want to look at keeping out intake of them to sometimes rather than everyday. These foods include those that are highly processed and have little nutritional value and are often referred to as "empty" calories. Eating them in large amounts is linked to obesity and other diseases.

TIP #5 Consume balanced meals

When planning and preparing a healthy meal, use the portion plate as a guide. Vegetables should play a fundamental role at most meals as they are low in calories and full of important nutrients and fibre. 

Portion plate guide:
-    Half (2 open hand size serve) of your meal should include a variety of colourful vegetables (cooked or salad)
-    A quarter (palm sized serve) should be from a lean protein (trimmed meat, skinless chicken, fish/seafood, tufu, legumes or eggs) 
-    The remaining quarter (fist size serve) should be from wholegrains (brown rice, quinoa, oats, wholegrain pasta and bread). 
-    In addition to this, aim to include a small serve (thumb sized serve) of healthy fats with your meal (cook with or drizzle olive oil over your meals, add a small amount of chopped nuts or seeds) 


TIP #5 Control your portions

You should try to match your food intake to your activity levels and health goals. Most dinner plates and bowls are too large which can make portion control challenging and ends with us overfilling and plate and stomach. If you have become less physically active or want to reduce your portion sizes, switch to using smaller plates and bowls for a simple solution. Eating slowly, putting your cutlery down between mouthfuls and eating without distractions (i.e. in front of the TV) are also beneficial strategies to prevent over-eating. Aim to stop when you are satisfied, rather than waiting until you feel stuffed.

TIP #6 Hydrate with water

While there are lots of options for us to drink, I’m sure we are all aware that the best one for us is water. Aim to consume at least 2 litres every day.

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